Parents of children found living in squalor in Joshua Tree released

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Update:  Parents of three children found living in a large rectangular plywood box have been released from custody.

73-year-old Daniel Panico and 51-year-old Mona Kirk were released after a judge determined they were not a flight risk or a danger to the community.

The couple was arrested last week after their three kids were found to be living in that box for four years.  There was no electricity or running water.

Friends of the couple say they are not criminals, just poor, and that they love their kids who were always clean, polite and well-behaved.

The couple will be living with friends until they return to court on March 15th.  The children are still in the custody of child protective services.


On Wednesday, February 28, 2018, at approximately 11:04 am, deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, Morongo Basin Station, were conducting an area check in the 7000 block of Sun Fair Road in Joshua Tree. 

Deputies located a travel trailer, which appeared to be abandoned, and a large rectangular box made of plywood on the property. The property had no electricity or running water. Several large holes and mounds of trash and human feces were located throughout the property. Approximately 30-40 cats were located inside the trailer and roaming freely. While checking the property deputies contacted three victims ages 11,13 and 14. Mona Kirk and Daniel Panico were found on the property and determined to be the parents of the victims. 

During the investigation, deputies learned the three victims have lived in the large rectangular box, (approximately 20 feet long by 4 feet high by 10 ft wide) for approximately four years. The victims were found to have an inadequate amount of food and were living in an unsuitable and unsafe environment due to the conditions located on the property. Children and Family Service responded to the location and took custody of the three victims. 

51-year-old Mona Kirk and 73-year-old Daniel Panico were arrested and booked into the Morongo Basin Jail for Penal Code Penal Code 273 A (A) Willful Cruelty To Child.

They are being held on  $100,000 bail. 

Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Morongo Basin Station at (760)366-4175. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may contact We-Tip at 1-888-78-CRIME. 

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